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REVIEW: Researcher offers accessible insight into why people leave Churches of Christ

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Flavil R. Yeakley Jr. Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ. Nashville, Tenn.: Gospel Advocate, 2012. 224 pages, $18.99.

Flavil Yeakley is one of the most influential data collectors in Churches of Christ.

Yeakley, retired director of the Harding Center for Church Growth in Searcy, Ark., is known for his statistical studies. His latest survey uses a more subjective, qualitative technique in which more than 300 former members wrote anonymous essays about why they left the Church of Christ.

“Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ” reports the results. His goal for the book is “to help church leaders learn what they can do to reduce the number who leave.”

Openingchapters explain the study’s motivation and methodology. Included is a chapteron communication, showing the value of listening even to dissenting voices. Thebulk of the book reports survey results organized by themes dealing withleadership, doctrines and interpersonal issues.

Sectionstend to follow a basic format: summary of the responses, a statement as towhether Yeakley thinks that situation is typical in Churches of Christ, and astatement of Yeakley’s beliefs about the situation.

Keeping with the stated purposeof the book, the majority of each chapter is Yeakley’s description of ahealthy, biblical church that would not have created the situation that droveaway the respondent.

Thewriting is accessible, even folksy at times (“Don’t be so open-minded that yourbrains fall out”). Those in church leadership and their spouses would find thebook most relevant to their roles.

Thevalue of “Why They Left” is less in the survey results and more in the extendedresponses given by Yeakley.

His 60-plus years of ministryleadership and consulting make each chapter a mini-consultation for churchleaders wishing to better live as the body of Christ.

MARK PARKER is young adults minister for the Grand Central Church of Christ in Vienna, W.Va.

Filed under: Reviews Staff Reports

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